Nicola Benedetti: Szymanowski

Wednesday 27th January, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Haydn  Symphony No. 92 (Oxford), 28′
  • Szymanowski Violin Concerto No. 2, 20′
  • Brahms  Symphony No. 4, 40′

Nicola Benedetti’s encore – Bach – Sarabande from Partita 2 in D Minor


Brahms said that he wanted his Fifth Symphony to sound like Haydn. He never got that far – because his magnificent Fourth Symphony said all he wanted to say! Lahav Shani brings out all its tragedy and triumph, but only after he’s shown you exactly what Brahms was talking about, in Haydn’s joyous “Oxford” Symphony. Nicola Benedetti, meanwhile, begins our mini-cycle of Szymanowski violin concertos with the ravishing, fantastical Second.Support the CBSO

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Benedetti was here for the first episode in the orchestra’s survey of both Szymanowski Violin Concertos (perversely, here we were hearing the Second; the First comes on February 4, Baiba Skride playing).

Her bright-toned Strad weaved a sweetly melancholic thread, allied to biting bow-work which reinforced the music’s strong similarities to the two violin concertos of Prokofiev. She even managed a squinge of discreet re-tuning during the impressive central cadenza before moving towards the wonderfully exhilarating ending. After this her encore (the Sarabande from Bach’s D minor Partita) grounded us perfectly.

Shani drew sumptuous sounds from the CBSO, an orchestra well versed in Szymanowski, thanks to the long-term advocacy of Sir Simon Rattle.

We had begun with the music of another Rattle protege, Haydn, no less, and his Symphony no.92. Its nickname “the Oxford” alerts the listener to its many learned winks and nudges, but all the time it fizzes with energy, and charms with smiling melodies.”   …

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Review by Peter Marks, Bachtrack:

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…    “The concerto is scored for a remarkably large orchestra, including five percussionists, a tuba, contrabassoon and orchestral piano. Szymanowski’s use of the latter in his violin concertos is particularly notable as few composers, even in the twentieth century, employed the orchestral piano in their concertos. Whilst the composer’s first concerto tends towards the impressionistic, the second is more assertive. It opens with a grumbling in that orchestral piano in an almost bluesy style. Benedetti adopted a suitably sultry tone in this first movement, managing to be heard even against the fullest orchestral accompaniment.

The movements in the concerto are contiguous but clearly distinct. The first two and last two movements are punctuated by a jaw-dropping cadenza almost entirely consisting of double-stopping. Benedetti traversed this with astonishing assuredness, even calmly tweaking her tuning along the way. The cadenza concludes, startlingly, with a huge crash from the orchestra, which conductor Lahav Shani timed to perfection. The third movement is rather militaristic and Benedetti was visibly enjoying the orchestral mayhem going on around her. She also noticeably engaged with her orchestral colleagues, particularly the leader. Benedetti was in total command of this concerto, as were Shani and the orchestra. ”     …

 

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Prom 51: Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons

Sunday 23rd August 2015, 3pm

Royal Albert Hall     

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor                  

Haydn – Symphony No. 90 in C major   (24 mins)                                               

Barber – Essay No. 2, Op 17 (11 mins)                

ShostakovichSymphony No. 10 in E minor Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op 93 (57 mins)

Encore – Shostakovich – Galop

About this event

Returning for a second appearance this summer, Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra bring a piece of America with them in Barber’s Essay No. 2 – a symphony in miniature, moving from lyrical loveliness through contrapuntal conflict to end with a radiant chorale. They pair it with Haydn’s Symphony No. 90, where ebullient mischief and dignity vie for supremacy in sunny C major. Joy gives way to high drama, however, in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 – a vivid portrait of Stalinist Russia.

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Review by Tim Ashley, Guardian:

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Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony has become something of a calling card for Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra since Nelsons took up his appointment as music director last year. Their recording, the first instalment of a series entitled Under Stalin’s Shadow, caused a considerable stir, and the symphony formed the main work of Nelsons’ second Prom with his new orchestra.

It was a remarkable achievement, exploring every facet of a complex score. The symphony is widely regarded as an act of self-vindication on Shostakovich’s part after Stalin’s death. Nelsons’ interpretation, however, embraces a wider frame of reference than political anger, although he views the final expression of triumph as one of unambiguous elation. In this performance the structure had an almost Brahmsian tautness, in which not a single note is wasted. Whatever its political subtext, the symphony also encoded Shostakovich’s unrequited love for his pupil Elmira Nazirova, and the third movement was done with extraordinary tenderness. It was immaculately played.”     …

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Review by Gavin Dixon, TheArtsDesk:

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…     “Barber’s Essay No. 2 for Orchestra felt like a bit of a box-ticker: a native work for the orchestra to bring on tour, as close as any American could manage to the European barnstormers that Nelsons is famous for. It’s an attractive piece, a 10-minute single movement, by turns dramatic and lyrical. The material is of appropriate scale for the modest duration, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome, apart from in the overblown coda, which is repetitive to point of redundancy, and beyond. Skilful orchestration though, ideal for showcasing the orchestra’s many strengths.

From the first note of the Shostakovich symphony, it was clear that this was going to be a very special performance. The quiet, winding cello line was presented with absolute precision and clarity, the tone rich but intensely focused. As the movement gradually grew, Nelsons gently urged the music on, giving each of the woodwind just enough space to phrase, but always fitting their solos into a clearly defined and elegantly articulated progression. He was in his absolute prime in the turbulent second movement, the music here ideal for his propulsive, sometimes verging on manic, approach.

Shostakovich’s humour is never black under Nelsons’ baton. He gives the music its full measure of irony, but never lets it wallow in despair.”     …

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Review by Ben Lawrence, Telegraph:

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There was a sense of apprehension when Andris Nelsons strode towards the Podium at the Royal Albert Hall for this, his second of two Proms with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Nelsons is the orchestra’s new music director and the shadow of past triumphs with his old colleagues at Birmingham’s CBSO loomed large.

In his previous job, Nelsons had developed such an intense connection with his players that you feared he wouldn’t have had time to elicit a response of any emotional depth from the Bostonians. Reassuringly, it was business as usual – those eagle-like swoops at moments of symphonic darkness, the playful hand puppetry, which teases out musical mischief – as he proved that, despite his intense theatricality, he is a conductor of exquisite technical nuance.

Haydn’s Symphony Number 90 was performed with a mathematical crispness that nevertheless switched effortlessly (in the double variation of the second movement) to something more profound. Nelsons slightly over-egged the famous false finale, in which the strings gallop to a four-bar silence before an extended coda in D Flat Major – here, four bars seemed to last an age, and Haydn’s musical joke subsequently felt heavy footed.”     …

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Review by David Truslove, BachTrack:

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The second of the BSO’s two London concerts began with Haydn’s Symphony no. 90 in C major. While in the opening movement there might occasionally have been cleaner horn sounds and a more rounded oboe tone there was no doubt about Andris Nelsons’ clear and invigorating direction. Perhaps supervision might be a more appropriate term, since from the Andante onwards there were moments when his left hand just rested motionless on the podium or, batonless, when he merely indicated to players when individuals were in the limelight. One such moment, in one of many chamber-style passages, was a winning partnership between flute and violins where their faultless musicianship caught the ear. In the finale, the high point of the entire performance, the violins seemed ablaze with animation with superbly articulated sforzando semiquavers. The work’s false ending was humorously achieved with Nelson jokingly closing the score during the four bars rest before the coda. Always alert and with some wonderfully spontaneous gestures, Nelsons was a joy to watch and appeared to be plugged into the national grid, such was the electrifying stimulus coming from the stand.

Andris Nelsons © BBC | Chris Christodoulou (Prom 49)

Andris Nelsons
© BBC | Chris Christodoulou (Prom 49)

Before the interval the BSO regrouped for Samuel Barber’s Essay no. 2. Written on the eve of the composer’s call up to the US army air force in 1942, and only once previously heard at the proms, the Essay is a colourfully orchestrated work. Its wistful moments, neatly drawn by expressive woodwinds at the outset, were countered by dramatic tensions in which timpani and brass made an impressive impact, and indicated that Barber is more than just an unabashed Romantic. A warm string tone also contributed to a fine, heartfelt performance, the Bostonians clearly at home with one of their own composers.”     …

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Review by Nick Breckenfield, ClassicalSource:

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…     “After the interval was Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony, Nelsons and the BSO’s current calling card, having recorded it for Deutsche Grammophon to release in time for the tour. Shostakovich could match Haydn with humour, but of a more sardonic type, especially in the abrupt second movement. First, though, the BSO’s mahogany-rich cellos and double basses responded to the resonant Albert Hall acoustic at the opening of the expansive first movement – just a bar was enough to convince of the quality of this new partnership. Nelsons is as lithe and athletic as ever: bending back on to the slatted wooden podium brought from home, then crouching with knees almost to the floor as he peers over his score for a pianissimo.

The poignancy of Shostakovich’s unrequited love for pupil Elmira Nazirova was given rapt life by James Sommerville’s magisterial horn solo against the woodwinds, chattering away with the composer’s oft-used monogram DSCH in the third movement, while the slow introduction to the Finale, makes way for the bittersweet culmination of the Symphony; accepting the Soviet world has changed following the death of Stalin, but in no way enough.

Playing to the Symphony’s musical rather than overtly political or emotional side, Nelsons is a direct and honest interpreter, though also aware of the composer’s contradictions. Eventually quieting the acclamation (having noticed the pair of prommers holding up a line of scarlet hosiery – Boston Red Sox; geddit?!) he told us they had one more piece of Shostakovich – a sarcastic ‘Galop’; immediately recognisable from Cheryomushki.

Finally, and incidentally, I was intrigued by the lavish Boston Symphony Orchestra press pack. With respect to the tour, although it gave the details of all the venues where the BSO is playing, it didn’t mention any of the summer festivals that had issued invitations: no mention of the Proms, the Salzburg Festival or the Lucerne Festival. And it’s the same on the Boston website: although the Salzburg Festival website is the one that it links to, the London link is to the Royal Albert Hall site not the Proms. What a peculiar world view they must have.”

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Review by Geoff Brown, The Times: ££

Click here for full review

                 

Haydn in London

Thursday 7th May, 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Haydn Symphony No. 103 (Drumroll), 29′
  • Mozart Violin Concerto No.4 in D Major, 24′
  • Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2, 26′
  • Haydn  Symphony No. 104 (London), 29′

No two great composers were ever closer than Mozart and Haydn, and there’s a smile in every bar of this delightfully entertaining concert. Two of the wittiest and warmest symphonies ever written frame lively concertos by Haydn’s best friend, and his biggest 20th century fan. Andris Nelsons’ schoolfriend Baiba Skride is the soloist. This is going to be fun: this spring, put a spring in your step!

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Support the CBSO

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Review by Sarah Probert, Birmingham Post: (for matinee of same programme)

Click here for full review

…     “The Mozart was neat and crystalline, Skride’s bow resourceful and articulate in communication, her dovetailing with the orchestra triumphant at the end of the first movement cadenza.

The Prokofiev brought piercing purity of intonation in an amazingly empathetic collaboration with the CBSO under Andris Nelsons (Skride’s old schoolmate).

The opening movement quite rightly emphasised the music’s folklore narrative, the andante was full of veiled fantasy launched by the whispering tones of the CBSO strings, and the finale was a louche dance of death, the pearly bass-drum obbligato grimly delivered by Andrew Herbert.

Skride’s performances came as the announcement was made that next season she is to be artist-in-residence with the CBSO.

Sadly there is no Andris Nelsons in that prospectus, and as his tenure as the orchestra’s music director comes to a close he seems on fire.

I have never seen him so relaxed and so balletic (even for him) on the podium.

He has developed a back-handed resource to his conducting, and has the confidence in his orchestra just to sweep across 180 degrees, knowing that they are with him every beat of the way. Will Boston ever experience such a sense of unity, I wonder?”     …

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Australian Chamber Orchestra

and Steven Osborne

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 Concert Package,

SoundBite, Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15, Orchestral Music and Piano Music

Sunday 5th October

Symphony Hall

Australian Chamber Orchestra
Richard Tognetti director/violin
Steven Osborne piano

Haydn Symphony No 83, La Poule 24’
Mozart Piano Concerto No 27 32’
Jonny Greenwood Water
Tchaikovsky Souvenir de Florence 35’

The Australian Chamber Orchestra is a byword for freshness and energy, and from Haydn’s explosive Parisian Symphony to Tchaikovsky’s sun-drenched postcard from Italy, this is a programme that plays to their strengths.

Richard Tognetti* directs a striking new work that Jonny Greenwood wrote especially for the ACO, and Steven Osborne finds new depths in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 27.

http://www.thsh.co.uk

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Steven Osborne never gets in the music’s way. He sits at the piano stool – but the composer is always in the driving seat. In Mozart’s piano concerto No 27, for example, the central movement’s sublime melody was wonderfully shaped without resorting to prettification or excessive rubato and was never slowed down from its specified larghetto. The cadenzas didn’t obtrude with seams showing, and the allegro finale absolutely sparkled supported by excellent work from the ACO.

Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir of Florence was originally for string sextet but while the ACO used triple those forces the gain in sonority didn’t mean a sacrifice in transparency. The adagio’s interplay between first violin and cello had the ardour of an operatic duet – marvellous! In Jonny Greenwood’s Water the composer played with the band on one of two tanpura, a fretless lute. There are tinkling piano ostinatos, a little eerie nachtmusik and some Psycho­-style abrasive strings – 17 minutes of movie music sans film.”

*****

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Review by Rian Evans, Guardian:

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…     “The Radiohead guitarist had clearly drawn on their fluidity of movement for the piece that emerged. That movement was reflected, too, in the final title, Water, from Philip Larkin’s poem in The Whitsun Weddings. The effects of light bouncing off water created a distinct aura. Once again, strings were wrapped around pivotal instruments: two flutes and two Indian tanpura, the smaller of which was played by Greenwood himself, with Tognetti leaning in to deliver concertante violin lines. The tanpuras’ low, gently plucked droning gave the piece – in five interconnected sections – a constant deep resonance. Featuring amplified upright piano and keyboard, synthesising the sound of glockenspiel and celeste (nodding to the soundworld of Messiaen, yet without the use of ondes martenot), Greenwood’s soundscape was organic and persuasive. The rhythmic ostinati and the shimmering rise and cascade of scales, with rippling chromatic colour, created a more dynamic effect. Greenwood bowed as modestly as a novice; in fact, he is anything but.”     …

Haydn and Mozart

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Wednesday 14 May 2014 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Margaret Cookhorn  contrabassoon
Rainer Gibbons  oboe

Haydn: Symphony No. 101 (The Clock) 27′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Mozart: Oboe Concerto 22′
Woolrich: Falling Down (The Grimmitt Trust Anniversary Commission: world premiere) 15′
Haydn: Symphony No. 102 23′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Andris Nelsons gets us smiling with two of the deliciously witty symphonies Haydn wrote specially for British audiences, and then throws in a very special bonus: the fantastically inventive concerto that John Woolrich wrote specially for the CBSO’s contrabassoonist, Margaret Cookhorn.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Andris and Håkan in Concert, Wednesday 28th May and/or Thursday 29th May (-Haydn)
Summer Serenade, Thursday 5th June

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…     “It was in the nickname-less 102nd that he really took charge, giving the first movement a Beethovenian fierceness, finding real pathos in the elegiac slow movement, with its solo cello threading through the textures. He delivered the symphony’s teasing final pages with perfect deadpan timing.

In between came two wind concertos. The CBSO’s principal oboe Rainer Gibbons was the elegant, understated soloist in, K314, the C major concerto that Mozart wrote for his instrument, while the orchestra’s contrabassoonist, Margaret Cookhorn, had a new work commissioned for her. John Woolrich describes his Falling Down as a “dark capriccio with lyrical moments”; the orchestra regularly tumbles down to the depths the solo instrument haunts, while dark-hued instruments – tuba, bass trombone, bass clarinet, cor anglais – mirror its sound-world. A battery of percussion, including two sets of timpani, emphasise the general unease. It’s a very skilful quarter-hour party piece for an instrument that doesn’t normally get out much, and Cookhorn made the most of it.”

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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…     “A rare pleasure to hear two Haydn symphonies in an evening: rarer still to be able to repeat the experience at the next day’s matinee concert.

It was also a valuable listening exercise. Not that the performances of No.101 (The Clock) and No.102 differed from one day to the next, no reason they should. However, a second hearing provided an opportunity to appreciate the CBSO’s assured playing and Andris Nelsons’ occasionally revelatory conducting. On first hearing them it appeared that Nelsons, unlike Sir Simon Rattle, is not an instinctive Haydn conductor.

For example, the dynamic extremes he brought to 101’s opening movement and the sudden forceful accents, applied with a jab from Nelsons’ baton, seemed too calculated, an instance of conducting micro-management: nuance of the sake of nuance. A second hearing revealed that this was not the case: the subtleties are all Haydn’s and Nelsons was happy to reveal their wonders with the illumination provided by playing of wit and delicacy from the CBSO.

The switch from minor key foreboding to D major sunlight was done with dazzling sleight of hand and the andante’s tick-tock transformations were delightful. Contrast was high because the darker hues were always given their due as in 102’s sombre adagio, led by Eduardo Vassallo’s soulful cello.”     …

*****

Beethoven’s Violin Concerto

Wednesday 9 October 2013 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Olari Elts  conductor

Christian Tetzlaff  violin

Mozart: Idomeneo – Ballet Music 12′

Haydn: Symphony No. 86 28′

Beethoven: Violin Concerto 42′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Master,   pupil and friend: between them, Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart transformed the   history of music. Tonight’s concert begins with the white-hot inspiration of   Mozart’s breakthrough opera, and ends with soloist Christian Tetzlaff soaring   high above the sunlit romantic landscape of Beethoven’s great Violin Concerto.   No-one conducts this music with more panache than Olari Elts; so when he turns   to Haydn’s exuberant 86th Symphony, the results should be little short of explosive. www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

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“Every once in a while, as a reviewer, you are so utterly transfixed by a performance that it becomes an incredible effort to wrench yourself back into reality in order to put pen to paper, such is the visceral impact. And so it was with Christian Tetzlaff’s performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

The context for the concerto, logically placed in the second half of the concert, had been set earlier with pieces by composers who had great influence on the young Beethoven: Mozart and Haydn. The influence of both were felt keenly throughout the concerto, from the astonishing invention Beethoven weaves from the basic four note opening motif first heard on timpani (here, effectively articulated by Peter Hill using wooden-headed sticks) to the sublime, soaring, melodies in between.

Tetzlaff’s opening arpeggio emerged with a perfectly judged gradation from ethereal softness to a commanding fullness of tone. This tone was incredibly sweet in the high register, where much time is spent in this work, yet gutsy when required.”     …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “But his grip on this wonderful work stimulated the imagination, martial elements (Peter Hill’s hard-sticked timpani a sensitive foil) combining with folky or hymn-like aspects. It took a long time to warm to this interpretation, but it brought its own rewards.

Earlier we were brought rare works by Beethoven’s two great Viennese predecessors: Mozart’s Idomeneo ballet music proved intriguing in its scoring, brightly delivered under Elt’s baton, and revealing in its thematic links with the powerful opera itself.

And Haydn’s Symphony no.86 (many years ago recorded by the CBSO under Simon Rattle) was brisk and affectionate, subtle, well-nuanced, and sparkling with glorious woodwind.”

The Birmingham Beethoven Cycle: Mass in C

Thursday 22 November 2012 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0603

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Olari Elts conductor
Anna Leese soprano
Kai Rüütel mezzo
Robert Murray tenor
Stephan Loges bass
CBSO Chorus

Haydn: Te Deum 12′
Haydn: Symphony No. 104 (London) 29′
Beethoven: Mass in C 45′ Listen on Spotify

“What do I care for your wretched violin?” demanded Ludwig van Beethoven. “I am speaking to my God.” And whatever your beliefs, there’s always something profoundly inspiring about hearing one of the greatest creative minds in history tackling the biggest questions in human existence. Olari Elts conducts our world-famous Chorus in Beethoven’s noble, heartfelt Mass in C – but not before a ringing shout of joy from the happiest religious composer of all time, Beethoven’s teacher Joseph “Papa” Haydn.

To see the full Birmingham Beethoven Cycle, go to www.birminghambeethoven.co.uk.

Sponsored by BarclaysThe Birmingham Beethoven Cycle is being supported by Barclays and through the generosity of Miss Brant, a lifelong supporter of the CBSO who died recently.

www.cbso.co.uk

Review by Neil Fisher, The Times (£)

Click here for full review

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Beethoven’s Mass in C, though, benefited from an almost minimal approach, its symbolism and fleeting drama more potently engaged by being understated.

It also sounded surprisingly beautiful (not least in the gentle opening Kyrie and when the same music is reprised in the final bars of the Agnus Dei) with soprano top notes of silvery lightness, punchy fugues that were never laboured, and a refreshing absence of making an ‘effect.’ ”      …

 

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Conducted by Olari Elits CBSO, the four soloists and the CBSO Chorus were perfectly aligned to take us through the varying emotions of the Mass.

Beethoven’s work was performed alongside two pieces by one of his predecessor at the Esterhazy court – Haydn.

Keeping to the religious theme, Haydn’s Te Deum is an exuberant and vibrant piece. At just over ten minutes, it encapsulates faith, joy and a hope in the everlasting.”    …